Give Me Your Best Frugal Living Tips, O Wise Readers

Now that we are mostly incomeless, seeing our bills staring us down is a little intimidating. There are still two more paychecks coming, so current expenses aren’t a problem, but the ones looming out a month are a little more frightening. If another job doesn’t present itself in a month or two, meeting those bills will be difficult. Aaron will be applying for unemployment assistance, but of course that will be far less than his old salary, and we’d prefer to not use it at all if we could help it.

(Yes, we paid for unemployment services with our taxes, so we should have access to it. I agree, but I still would like to take as little as we can. There are people who are far more needy than us. At least we have family and friends to rely on a little if needed.)

As a result, we’re making cuts to drastically scale back our spending so we can stretch these last two paychecks as long as possible. Looking over the checking account, it’s obvious we’ve had a lot of unnecessary spending. I’m finding lots of items around the house that we no longer need also, and I’m considering listing them on eBay to make a little extra cash and declutter the house in the process.

While I’ve always been a cost-conscious shopper, I’ve never been an obsessive coupon-clipper, price-tracker, or make-at-home-er. Cooking generally involves convenience foods – actually, convenience is the official word in this house, now that I think about it. But I know we may need to put some convenience and luxury aside until a new job is found.

Mira is doing her part by feeding herself now,
freeing up my hands for more blogging.

We won’t be giving up our internet access, because we must have it in order to do our freelance work. Sure, I could go to the library to write my blogs, but Aaron’s job requires him to be checking news all day long. I think the library has limits for how much internet time you can have, and living at the library isn’t that attractive with the whole no food-or-drink rule. We have to keep our cell phones, too, because we’re locked into a family plan contract, and the cost of canceling is an obscene amount of money, with the possibility of a first-born child thrown in, too.

So I’m turning to all of you for help. What is your best frugal tip? How do you make your budget stretch further, not just for food, but for everything? Give me your best dollar-saving advice, within reason, of course – I’m really not into separating the two-ply toilet paper into two rolls to make it last longer. At least not yet.

Thanks in advance! (And whoever has been clicking on my Adsense ads in the past week, thank you. I’ve never had that many clicks before. You’re very kind!)

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Today is the last day to enter my Mabel’s Labels contest over at Mommy’s Must Haves. Contest closes at midnight tonight! Also check out my review of the Step 2 Sand & Water Cart. I’ve got a new contest coming up later this week, too.

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Comments

  1. One place where I get a lot of money saving tips is the Money Matters message board on the Nest, those ladies are very smart and know how to stretch a penny! Great community of women, I encourage you to lurk and/or post to get some ideas there! They are great at helping people analyze their budget to find some extra cash.

    We downsized our cable/internet recently. I called Comcast and threaten to leave them for Dish and got my bill lowered by $15. We switched from cable internet to AT&T dsl and now only pay 23.99 a month for Internet, about half what we paid for it with Comcast. It’s a bit slower but the only time I notice is when I’m uploading photos to an online host.

    For food, we save money by planning our meals around what food is on sale that week. We scour the grocery ads that come out on Wednesday. So I buy the meat and produce that is on sale and stock up on pantry items when they are at their rock bottom price. I also buy meat and cheese when it is really cheap and freeze it for later use. Cutting out a couple of meals with meat each week can save some money as well. Pasta is cheap, as are many casseroles.

  2. Here are our tips:

    Share a car.
    Share cell phone/iPod/laptop.
    No cable.
    Called Bell to negotiate better rate for phone and internet (DSL).
    Convince family to cut back on gift exchanges.
    Get owner of the salon to cut your hair–no tips.
    Cut back eating out/takeout/processed food.
    Eat less meat.
    Buy used children’s clothing.

  3. http://www.thegrocerygame.com

    If you stick with it, you’ll save a ton.

  4. We eat a lot of beans and rice. Cheap and filling.

    We rarely leave the house, and when we do, I plan my route to be most efficient and try to get all my errands run to save gas.

    I take grocery ads to Walmart and look for deals because Walmart will match prices.

  5. My mom’s way of saving money when we were kids was to use only cash to pay for things. She was forced to be aware of every cent she spent and had to be careful not to buy more groceries than she had money in her pocket for. It really works.

    Although there’s no way to track your spending, so there’s that drawback.

  6. First off, I love your blog! It was the first one I ever ran into, literally years ago while searching for a way to calm teething (Cordy’s first “scotch on the rocks” ;). At that point I wasn’t a blogger and I couldn’t remember the site, but since moving back to Columbus I looked you up again and added you to my Bloglines, our playgroup loves your “Being Savvy: Columbus” blog.
    Anyway, tips for saving money: you already figured out the coupons and price tracking, etc. even if you don’t spend a lot of time with it. I don’t either, but if you do the casual look-through for stuff you buy often (diapers, anyone?) you can save a couple bucks every week. Another grocery idea: don’t go to Walmart. Surprised? Well, they have “every day low prices” but not nearly as good as a Meijer sale. I.E. their 3-lb. bag of chicken is regularly $8, Meijer this week has their 4-lb. bag (regularly $14ish) buy-1-get-1-free. And WM quality isn’t nearly as good. Walmart doesn’t have sales, though I will go there for staples like flour and cooking oil if I need them and can’t wait for a sale.
    When you find some component(s) of a particular meal your family enjoys, buy extra and double the batch, then freeze the extra. It’s faster to make a double batch once than 2 single batches, and much cheaper – a nice way to have “convenience food” without the price tag!
    Planning the week’s meals based on what’s on sale (mentioned in another person’s comment) saves a ton, too.
    Join Freecycle and Craigslist. Columbus has very active communities for both sites, so it’s easy to both give/get rid of and receive what you’re needing.
    Freecycle is a way to keep useful items out of the landfill (“one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”) – anything and everything shows up, from TVs and pianos to king-size beds and kids’ clothing. It’s all free (obviously) and environmentally friendly, too! (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FreecycleColumbus/)
    Craigslist is more like an online garage sale – you post whatever you want to get rid of, the price, and your location; somebody emails you about wanting it, you set up a date/time, done. Gotta love it! (http://columbus.craigslist.org/)
    When gift-giving occasions roll around, tell your family members what you really need. My kids have tons of toys, but we’d love to put my son in swimming lessons, so we ask for those instead of more toy box fodder. For Christmas, we didn’t have a toy box (you can imagine the state of my house!) so we asked my dad to build one in lieu of more playthings we didn’t have room for.
    Garage sales are great places for good-quality kids’ clothing and toys. I scored 2 turtle sandboxes for $5 (total, not each) at our community yard sale this spring. And when the guy brought them over (free delivery!) he found out that we needed a slide that he had an extra of – and gave it to us free ($100 value!) Plus, it’s a great learning opportunity for kids to start learning about money.
    Making friends with neighbors and other people with kids is a great way to save – do a toy swap, pass clothing on, and do cooking parties (the food will be kid-friendly that way, and while each person brings the ingredients for 1 meal, you all walk away with a variety).
    When you go out for playdates and such, carpool! Lots of moms have minivans (4+ carseats can fit, depending on the size of the seat!) We all like to go out for fun times anyway, so arrange to go with someone else when you go to the zoo, or wherever. You drive this time, they drive next time. Or, if only one of you has a minivan, take it in turns to cover the gas. You can have company on what can sometimes turn into tedious waiting for you (honestly, how long can a person *really* look at elephants? My son would spend all day and night there if I didn’t force the moving-on.)
    When you buy clothes (for yourself or the kids) buy ones that can match with more than one item in your closet – you can buy fewer clothes but have more outfits.
    Buy fewer clothes. When we did a mission trip in Fiji, we stayed in the pastor’s house and his 2 daughters’ ENTIRE personal belongings fit into ONE small chest. We really don’t *need* nearly as many clothes as we let ourselves think we do. Try this exercise: go through your closet and pull to one side all of the clothes you’ve worn in the last month. Then look at how many are left on the other side.
    Start totaling up how much you spend on eating out in a month, then see what you can do to reduce that. A recent potty-training reward trip was out for ice cream – instead of going to Dairy Queen, we went for ice cream sundaes at McDonald’s – instead of $3+/person, it was $3 total, and our 2-year-old was just as happy. We can indulge, but we often do better by indulging on the lower end of the price scale.
    I hope this helps! Good luck!

  7. -limiting the errands and doing them in order helps.
    -we switched to cloth diapers (prefolds and covers)
    -make as many things from scratch as possible
    -plan a weeeks worth of meals around what’s already in your pantry and what’s on sale
    -ONLY cut out coupons for things you would normally buy and make sure it’s a good deal. Otherwise, you actually spend more money
    -shop at Aldi if you have it, we get about 80% of our groceries there and it saves us a ton.

  8. Dorothy says:

    Great blog, my first time. And your readers are making a lot of sense. Gave me some ideas..

    Dorothy from grammology
    remember to call your gram
    grammology.com

  9. Marshamlow says:

    I am sorry to hear about your hard time. What I did when we had to save a few pennies in a hurry is to start an excel spread sheet writing down every penny we spend for the entire month and then give everything categories. Try to use as much detail as possible for every item. You can see where the money goes and better determine where you can tighten your belt.

    Second tip is that I seem to throw away a lot of food that spoils before I get around to using it. I found that making a list of what we are going to be eating for the week and then a shopping list from that helped. Only if you stick to it. Then I only bought what we we actually ate instead of just buying stuff because I usually have it in the fridge.

    Hope those ideas help and that you find a way out of this situation soon.

  10. ~Cable – go to basic or none at all!
    ~Phone – home phone … if you have cell phones that work well at your house cut off your house phone
    ~shop in bulk – it may cost more now but in the long run it will save esp laundry det.
    ~NO NAME BRAND!!! Food juice or anything!
    That is all I got for ya … I will be praying for a JOB to find you guys!

  11. - cut cable
    - see if you can get a better phone/internet/cell package
    - drive waaaaaaay less (seen the price of gas lately?)
    - don’t buy it if you don’t need it
    - make coffee at home and put it in a travel mug for going out
    - always go out with plenty of good snacks from home to avoid having to buy something
    - when you do need something, try to get it used

  12. There are lots of great tips already given. I would suggest:

    -Grabbing a beverage to take with you before you leave the house. A 16 oz bottle of soda at a gas station costs more than a whole 2 liter bottle at the supermarket. Same with coffee, juice, and bottled water.

    -Try to find 2 of the same coupons and seek out B1G1Free sales at CVS and Walgreens. You can make a deal with your paperboy or a local gas station to keep aside any extra coupon flyers for you from the Sunday papers.

    -Don’t buy magazines. Ask for subscriptions for gifts or get them from your local library.

    -Switch all your light bulbs to the new eco-friendly reduced wattage type.

    -We eat a lot of pasta and rice because it’s less costly.

    -Buy generic over-the-counter drugs (Claretin, ibuprofen, etc . . . ) at someplace like BJ’s Wholesale Club. The supermarket and drugstore generic brands still cost a lot more than theirs.

    -Don’t buy things like cake or brownies from a bakery or the supermarket. You can bake one from a mix for a 1/3 of the cost or less.

    Hope at least one of these helps. If I can think of more, I’ll come back tomorrow.

  13. I don’t know if you have Time Warner as we do here, but call there and just tell then that you can’t afford your bill and they will usually find a way to lower it. Last time I did it, it saved us $25/month and we got better services. I have a friend who stopped renting/buying videos and books and utilizes the library and she saved a ton. Good luck!

  14. Oh, and try to cut out gifts for birthdays for others- that would save me a TON! A girlfriend of mine gives friends and family free babysitting for birthdays…just a thought…

  15. Christie D. says:

    Hi – this probably doesn’t save a great deal of money, but planting fruit/veggies is fun & educational, and adds a little spice to life –

    - Strawberry plants will grow and give you more strawberries year after year.

    - Tomatoes are not too much trouble and so yummy fresh!

    - Cilantro, chives, Chinese chives and asparagus will grow up year after year (some may need to “go to seed” in the fall and have their seeds sprinkled about so they can grow up the next year)

    - Daikon radish, green onion and spinach can be left growing in the garden and picked as and when you need them for cooking – like having an extension of your fridge, but better, since they stay fresh as long as they are in the garden!

    - hot peppers, cilantro, asparagus and chives can be frozen when harvested, so you can keep using them for months afterwards.

    With some of these you might not think you are saving a great deal of money, but they can prevent some trips to the grocery store and give you some nice dishes of homegrown food.

    With just a few ripe cherry tomatoes and leaves of spinach, you can make a nice little salad. Chives and cilantro are always fun to have around, to add to various dishes. If we have a can of cocunut milk and a pack of frozen shrimp in the house, I can use the garden asparagus and Chinese chives to make a yummy coconut curry!

    We usually can’t afford to buy strawberries (living in Japan), but this morning I picked two ripe strawberries and gave my son cornflakes with pieces of strawberry on top! Sometimes having something fresh from the garden just adds that little extra something, and it feels great when you know it’s free! Also, it’s very nutritious to add fresh-grown herbs and veggies to other foods. None of the things I mentioned are very much trouble to grow, and it is early enough in the summer that you could still start some of them this weekend!

  16. Condo Blues says:

    Here are my money-saving tips:
    - Take 5 minute showers or less. Taking a 5 minute shower instead of the typical 8 minute shower saves you 10 gallons of water a day.
    - I’m trying to reduce my electric usage by 20% this year by using the appliance I have less for example, I put my dishwasher on the short wash cycle and air drying the dishes afterward and killing phantom electric loads http://condo-blues.blogspot.com/2008/05/killing-phantom-loads-for-fun-and.html. Putting my TV, cable box, etc. on a power strip and turning the powerstrip off after I turned off the TV made a BIG difference in how much electricity we used and paid for each month.
    -I did my own DIY energy audit http://condo-blues.blogspot.com/2008/04/diy-home-energy-audit-def-con-2-how-to.html and sealed air leaks and drafts (every home has them including new builds like ours) in my air ducts, around our outlets, windows, and doors. It cost very little for weatherstripping, caulk, and foam outlet covers. (email me and I’ll come over and do it for you guys if you want.) Sealing air leaks means you won’t have to pay extra $ to heat or cool air that is leaking outside your home.
    -Consider air drying some of your clothes if you can. My COA won’t allow clotheslines so I hang clothes on hangers and hang them off of the shower rod in the bathroom. This may be inpractical for all of your loads of laundry but maybe you could line dry one load out of two that you wash.

  17. I did a post on some things I do to save $$ and there is also a link on my page for a friend who writes “A Penny In My Pocket” on how she saves money.

    http://nocryingmama.blogspot.com/2008/06/will-it-ever-end.html

  18. Anissa Mayhew says:

    Give up cable boxes to lower your bill, if you have more than one you pay for each tv you watch on. Cough up a little bit of money and get a Slingplayer, it connects over your IP and you can watch tv on your computer anywhere you want. You can control your dvr and all that fun stuff. In all honesty, you can watch live streaming shows on any network website these days, who needs cable?

    Selling the crap you have laying around is always a great option as well. We had a HUGE christmas come knocking on the door via an enormous American Express bill….we started ebaying stuff left and right and we actually were able to pay it off.

    Great time for a yard/garage sale too! If you have friends who have the stuff but don’t want to bother with having one, ask if you can get it out of their way….save them the work and you have more swag to sell.

    Good luck, Here’s hoping things turn around soon and lots of jobs see the worth of your words.

    –Anissa
    http://www.hope4peyton.org

  19. Misguided Mommy says:

    first of all, i totally thought that was a young cordy not mira whoah!

    second. i’m in this same situation, and food wise i found that writing a weekly menu and cooking all 3 meals a day saved me a tooon. then i got rid of my home phone since i had a mobile, took texting and internet and what not off my cell, asked for lower interest rates on credit cards, and i’ve been a craigs list selling fool because craigs list is free ebay isn’t and, most craigs list sells local so you dont pay shipping either!!!!!!!!!! score.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Some suggestions, buy many food items in bulk (possibly from a coop if available this saves on money and packaging). If you can buy from the farmer’s market. Buying used items on craigslist, garage sales and thrift stores. I am vegan and find that over the past 4 years we have saved a lot of money by not buying dairy and meat but that is big step to take if you are not already interested, however, you could cut down on these things! Take public transport when possible (easy for me to say i live in nyc and don’t own a car). Look into starting a child care coop for free care.

    Best of luck.

    Candace

  21. Anonymous says:

    Oh yes and cloth diapers and drying on a line!

    Candace

  22. Whoa – a lot of comments! Yeah!

    Has anyone mentioned Angel Ministries. I think we’re giving it a try next month. I’ve heard good things about it and it helps a bit with the grocery bills each month.

  23. Ahh the wonderful world of unemployment. I hit that May 1 and haven’t looked back since.

    With a teen and a toddler a few things I’ve done is this:

    - If you have a CVS, they are great on coupons, Extra Care Bucks (kind of like CVS money) and sales. I buy most of the toiletries there. Usually about $50, with coupons, etc I walk out paying $20 or less.

    - I watch the grocery ads like a hawk now. Seeing who has what on sale. Lucky I have 4 grocers within 5 miles so the drive isn’t too bad. Check a few coupon sites (couponloop.com, smartsource.com, couponmom.com, there are a few more) for printable coupons. Make sure your store will take them, some won’t.

    - If I don’t have to drive there, I won’t. If I do have to drive, I make sure I make a route to get everything done in one trip.

    - Sounds funny, but shop eBay. I’ve found so many things on there that even with shipping, saved me a ton of money.

    I’m sure there’s more. Good luck with the job hunt. It’s tough, I know.

  24. Jennifer says:

    I second the suggestion of staying home. We have been concentrating on this, and you save not just the gas, but the $10-20 that’s so easy to spend when you are out and about. It’s been more than financial benefit, I think my family has grown closer. Where previously we might have gone to a movie, we play scrabble or monopoly. And it’s felt good to cut down on our consumerism.
    Food costs are also a great way to cut expenses. Planning meals really helps and, while it might seem like a pain at first, it really does make things easier. I make one night per week “breafast for dinner” night, and one night “pasta night” because both are easy to make and cheap. We also have home-made pizza quite a bit. Cordy might even enjoy helping top pizza.

  25. I thought of two more things. First, there’s a book I once got from the library called Living Simply With Kids (I think) and it was all about embracing simplicity in daily life… I think that sometimes the best way to save money isn’t about the things we buy or whatever but about the way we think about stuff and life and fulfillment.

    I ended up not finishing the book because LIFE GOT INSANELY BUSY and I HAD A BABY but it might be worth looking at.

    The second thing is this: I noticed a LOT of people in your comments talking about cable and cutting back and all. If you can’t live without cable TV shows, you can get ‘em all by dropping cable and signing up for Blockbuster Online instead. For something like $20 a month you get three out at a time and can return in-store for five freebies a month or something like that. WAY cheaper than cable but you can get the same shows and they’re on when YOU want them to be on.

  26. We exclusively grocery shop @ Aldis. It may weird you out at first, but you will love it when you get to the register. You have to pay in cash though.
    I NEVER buy the kids new clothes. We get everything through freecycle (Yahoo group), hand me downs from friends and family, and gifts from family. When I need something special, I hit resale shops.

  27. ttelroc says:

    I am many days late in answering this, but I wanted to share my tips.

    Wash clothing in cold water.
    Do not buy magazines. Either read them at the library or hang out in doctors offices LOL

    Someone else mentioned writing everything down for a month (every single purchase & cash shelled out) and that will tell you more about your spending than anything else. You can cut the fat right off the top when you do this project.

    No more buying of craft projects. Reuse paper, crayons (melting down broken crayons), tubes, styrofoam trays, construction paper, etc.

    Set up a DVD borrowing system with friends and family so you don’t need to rent or buy DVDs to watch.

    Do not purchase Post-It notes. I love them dearly but they are expensive. They are luxuries to be purchased after the new job lol

    Use paperbackswap.com if you like to read books and have ones you’d like to get rid of.

    Don’t reuse plastic bags, but do take excellent care of your plastic “gladware” and don’t microwave it. It lasts forever if it isn’t microwaved. spray PAM in them before putting in spaghetti sauce and the sauce shouldn’t stain the plastic.

    Use dishtowels and cloth napkins instead of papertowels and paper napkins.

    Give to others and you shall receive. I wish you the best.

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